Cheltenham specialist The New One is set for his 15th start at the Home of Jump Racing in the £325,000 G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15. It will be his first attempt at three miles and seventh appearance at The Festival.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies spoke about The New One today at a Cheltenham Racecourse-organised media stable visit to his Gloucestershire stables ahead of The Festival, which happens over four days next month - Tuesday, March 13 to Friday, March 16 inclusive.
He said: "I expect The New One and Wholestone will dead-heat in the Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle! No, I don't know as it is a whole new game for The New One, while Wholestone has done well all season.
"Wholestone likes Cheltenham - he got slightly outstayed in the very heavy ground last time, but the ground won't be like that at The Festival and I am sure he will get home.
"I am not confident about three miles for The New One at all, which is why we have hung on so long to try him over it.
"We will be riding The New One differently and so on - we won't be making all. He has won over two and a half miles quite a few times, but is he really staying on then? I don't know.
"Looking at the races he has run this season, The New One is probably better than he has ever been. I think his races have been incredible this season and the handicapper thinks so too as the horse is still very highly-rated.
"We had to have a go at the Champion Hurdle trials this season because they are so valuable and he has run well in all of them. He just has this huge earning capacity at two miles and he is likely to go back to that distance next season. That is where the money is and if he is earning £200,000 a year why do anything else?
"The New One has already won a championship race at The Festival as he took the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle in 2013 (now the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle).
"He is the horse of a lifetime - it would be nice to win the Stayers' Hurdle as it was so sad when the first Champion Hurdle was there for the taking and he was knocked out of it.
"Sam (Twiston-Davies - son and jockey) has been keen to try The New One over three miles for a long time."
Reacting to the fact that this will be The New One's seventh run at The Festival, the trainer said: "That is quite a statistic and hopefully he will be running there next year too. The New One has been very kind to us. Wholestone is proven at the distance, while The New One isn't, so it is impossible to say which will do better on the day.
"The New One would have a good chance if he stays the trip. We're not going into the race confident about the trip, but if does stay - people are telling me that he will and that he'll improve for the trip - then he has a very good chance. He's won races having been held up so that isn't an issue."
Nigel Twiston-Davies & The New One today
The Twiston-Davies-trained gelding's first outing at Cheltenham came on his second career start when he lined up in the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Junior Bumper on New Year's Day in 2012. The New One had made a successful debut in a Warwick bumper and was sent off the 11/2 second-favourite behind the John Ferguson-trained Trespasser. Ridden by the trainer's son, Sam, who has partnered the gelding in 32 of his 36 career starts to date, The New One, always handy, was driven out in the final furlong to record a length-and-three-quarter length success.
As a dual bumper winner, The New One was allowed to take his chance in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival in 2012 and finished an honourable sixth behind Champagne Fever, who went on to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at The Festival the following year. The New One progressed to win the G2 Aintree Champion Bumper the next month, defeating My Tent Or Yours.
More success followed the following season when The New One was sent over hurdles. A win at Cheltenham in October, 2012 was sandwiched in-between victories at Newton Abbot and Warwick, but he tasted his first defeat over the smaller obstacles when beaten a neck on heavy ground by At Fisher's Cross at Cheltenham in January, 2013. With the benefit of hindsight, this turned out to be a praiseworthy performance as At Fisher's Cross went on to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at The Festival. Third-placed Coneygree stepped up to take the 2015 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, while fourth-placed Whisper triumphed in the 2014 Coral Cup.
The New One's next start at Prestbury Park in what is now the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, was his first and only success at The Festival to date. Willie Mullins' unbeaten hurdler Pont Alexandre was sent off the 6/4 favourite, but The New One, returned at 7/2, stormed up the Cheltenham hill to record a famous four-length victory.
The New One's Cheltenham appearances have been limited largely to the G2 Unibet International Hurdle and the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle ever since. His record in the two races could not be more different though. The son of King's Theatre won the Unibet International Hurdle in 2013, 2014 and 2016 (when partnered by Richard Johnson for the first time) and was the length and a quarter runner-up to old adversary My Tent Or Yours in the 2017 renewal. The New One has not been able to better his third place in the 2014 Unibet Champion Hurdle (behind Jezki), finishing 5th in 2015 (behind Faugheen), 4th in 2016 (behind Annie Power) and 5th again in 2017 behind Buveur D'Air.
Since chasing home My Tent Or Yours in the Unibet International in December, The New One has finished runner-up to Buveur D'Air in the G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and landed the G2 Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial for the fourth time at Haydock Park on January 20.
The admirable 10-year-old has been victorious 20 times in total, earning over £1-million in prize money, and has only finished out of the first four just four times in 36 starts.
The New One - Cheltenham Record
January 1, 2012: 1st of 15 - High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Junior Bumper
March 14, 2012: 6th of 20 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper
October 19, 2012: 1st of 9 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
January 26, 2013: 2nd of 5 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
March 13, 2013: 1st of 8 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
December 14, 2013: 1st of 7 - Unibet International Hurdle
March 11, 2014: 3rd of 9 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
December 13, 2014: 1st of 8 - Unibet International Hurdle
March 10, 2015: 5th of 8 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
March 15, 2016: 4th of 12 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
December 10, 2016: 1st of 6 - Unibet International Hurdle
March 14, 2017: 5th of 11 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
November 19, 2017: 4th of 13 - Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
December 16, 2017 2nd of 7 - Unibet International Hurdle
Nigel Twiston-Davies' other leading hopes for The Festival
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "Wholestone could run a big race at a decent price. His jumping is good and he's a lively outsider. Wholestone has been running well all season, hasn't he. He likes Cheltenham and just got slightly outstayed there last time [G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle] in that heavy ground and it won't be heavy this time, so he has a good chance.
"He was an excellent novice last season and he ran well in the Albert Bartlett, so he could be a horse at a price who could run well."
Age: 7 (born April 9, 2011)
Breeding: br g Craigsteel - Last Theatre (King's Theatre)
Owner: Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
Starts: 14; Wins: 6; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 2 Win & Place prize Money: £119,079
A talented novice hurdler, Wholestone recorded three victories at Cheltenham last season, including two G2 victories, before finishing third to Penhill in the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over three miles at The Festival
A three and a quarter-length winner of the G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day at Prestbury Park, Wholestone was a three-length second to the Nick Williams-trained Agrapart on his latest start in the G2 gallairdhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 27. Wholestone, successful four times in seven Cheltenham starts (never been out of the first three at the course), is entered in the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle over three miles at The Festival.
Nigel Twiston-Davies declared: "Ballyoptic has a good chance in the RSA Chase. Sam may possibly ride and it was a very good run at Wetherby last time. He did everything right and bounced back to form after Kempton. He must be my best chance of a winner at The Festival this year along with The New One."
Age: 8 (born April 22, 2010)
Breeding: b g Old Vic - Lambourne Lace (Un Desperado)
Owner: Mills & Mason Partnership
Starts: 16; Wins: 6; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 0 Win & Place prize Money: £156,700
Ballyoptic joined Twiston-Davies in early 2016 and made a stellar start over hurdles, winning his first four starts over hurdles, which included a neck success over the Willie Mullins-trained Bellshill in the G1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle over an extended three miles at Aintree in April, 2016.
Last season, Ballyoptic ran with credit in a number of staying hurdle races, which included a final flight fall in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, 2016, when challenging the eventual winner Unowhatimeanharry. Fourth to the same rival in the 2017 G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, Ballyoptic was pulled up in the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at The Festival 2017.
Switched to fences after one run over hurdles this term, Twiston-Davies' charge has won twice over the larger obstacles in four starts. That included a 13-length victory over the talented Elegant Escape at Exeter in November and a gutsy two and three-quarter length victory over Sue Smith's Vintage Clouds in a G2 event at Wetherby on his latest start. Ballyoptic also came home fourth to Paul Nicholls' Black Corton in the G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He is entered in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase over an extended three miles and the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle over three miles at The Festival.
Nigel Twiston-Davies commented: "Jameson has done nothing wrong all season, though two miles was too quick for him last time. He will go for the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase."
Age: 6 (born March 22, 2012)
Breeding: b g Midnight Legend - Shatabdi (Mitoto)
Owner: Walters Plant Hire Limited
Starts: 10; Wins: 3; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 1 Win & Place prize Money: ££29,651
Jameson has had just five runs for Twsiton-Davies since joining the yard this season from Nicky Henderson, for whom he won a novice hurdle over two miles and four furlongs at Ffos Las in April, 2017.
Second to West Approach on his first start for his new stable in a beginners' chase at Ffos Las in October, 2017, the six-year-old went one better with a game neck victory in a two and a half mile novices' handicap chase at Sandown Park in November, 2017.
Since coming home second to Oldgrangewood in a valuable handicap chase over the same distance at Newbury in December, Jameson has finished last of four in novice chase events at Cheltenham and Newbury over two and a half and two miles in December and January.
He is entered in the JLT Novices' Chase and the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival.
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "It was a nice performance at Kempton last time and The Festival is something we're definitely looking at. We didn't do much differently with him, but it was a smaller race last time - he had come down in the handicap and he is a quality horse."
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He was a winner over two and a half miles at Cheltenham and he is the sort of horse who could pop up and win a handicap."
Nigel Twiston-Davies - entries so far at The Festival 2018
Champion Day - Tuesday, March 13 (Old Course)
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle - Ballymoy
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase - Robinshill
Ultima Handicap Chase - Double Ross, Cogry, Bigbadjohn, Tintern Theatre, Benbens
OLBG Mares' Hurdle - Angels Antics
National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase - Ballymalin
Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase - Jameson, Ballyhill
Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14 (Old Course & Cross Country Course)
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle - Count Meribel
RSA Insurance Novices' Chase - Ballyoptic
Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - Turning Gold
St Patrick's Thursday, March 15 (New Course)
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle - Arthur's Gift, Callet Mad
JLT Novices' Chase - Ballyhill, Jameson
Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle - Ballyoptic, The New One, Wholestone
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate - Ballykan, Ballybolley, Ballyhill, Foxtail Hill, Jameson, Splash of Ginge, Templehills
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders Handicap Chase - Double Ross, Benbens, Tintern Theatre, Cogry, Bigbadjohn, Arctic Gold
Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16 (New Course)
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - Calett Mad, Count Meribel
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup - Blaklion
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - Splash of Ginge, Arthur's Gift
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase - Foxtail Hill, Robinshill
Nigel Twiston-Davies initially combined training as a permit-holder with his farming interests throughout the 1980s, having his first winner with Last Of The Foxes at Hereford on February 3, 1982, as a permit holder before the agricultural recession prompted him to make training his full-time profession.
He took out a full training licence in 1989, recording his first win as a public trainer on December 30 of that year with Babil at Newbury.
He has since gone on to register close to 2,000 successes, with his 1,000th winner coming at Stratford in October, 2006.
Born on May 16, 1957, Twiston-Davies rode 17 winners as an amateur under Rules and gained a further 17 point-to-point victories, and served as assistant trainer to Richard Head and Fred Rimell as well as spells with Kim Bailey and David Nicholson.
A childhood neighbour and friend of Peter Scudamore, he went into partnership with the champion Jump jockey to set up stables at Grange Hill Farm between Guiting Power and Naunton in Gloucestershire, although Scudamore has not been involved in the venture for many years (since 2003) and currently assists his partner Lucinda Russell.
Since 2009, Twiston-Davies' business partner and assistant trainer is former stable jockey Carl Llewellyn, who enjoyed two Grand National winners thanks to Party Politics in 1992 and Earth Summit in 1998.
Twiston-Davies adopted and developed the pioneering techniques of Martin Pipe, such as interval training and regular blood tests for his string, enabling him to rapidly raise his profile among the training ranks.
He is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National at Aintree more than once, saddling Earth Summit to victory in 1998 and Bindaree four years later.
Twiston-Davies has had 17 successes at the Cheltenham Festival, headed by Imperial Commander in the 2010 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Other big-race wins include three Scottish Grand National successes, two Welsh Grand National triumphs, the Betfair Chase with Imperial Commander (2010) and the Betway Aintree Hurdle with The New One (2014), Khyber Kim (2010) and Mister Morose (2000).
His best season numerically was in 2010/11, when he enjoyed 97 winners, while he saddled 95 winners over jumps in 2016/17.
His biggest winners this season include Bristol De Mai in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25 and Splash Of Ginge in the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 18.
He had two sons with his former wife Cathy. The eldest, Sam, 25, is stable jockey to leading Jump trainer Paul Nicholls and still rides regularly for his father.
William (Willy), 23, a successful rider on the Flat and over jumps, announced earlier this season that he will not be returning to race riding. He wants to become a trainer eventually after working in bloodstock.
The trainer is married to Vicky and they have three young children, Poppy, Rosie and Ted.
Nigel Twiston-Davies - 17 winners at The Festival
1992- 1 winner
Tipping Tim - Ultima Handicap Chase
1993 - 2 winners (shared Leading Trainer Award)
Gaelstrom - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Young Hustler - RSA Insurance Novices' Hurdle
1994 - 1 winner
Arctic Kinsman - Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
1998 - 1 winner
Upgrade - JCB Triumph Hurdle
2000 - 1 winner
Rubhahunish - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
2004 - 1 winner
Fundamentalist - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
2008 - 1 winner
Ballyfitz - Pertemps Network Final
2009 - 2 winners
Imperial Commander - Ryanair Chase
Tricky Trickster - National Hunt Chase
2010 - 3 winners
Imperial Commander - Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Baby Run - St James's Place Foxhunter
Pigeon Island - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual
2013 - 2 winners
The New One - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Same Difference - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
2016 - 2 winners
Blaklion - RSA Insurance Novices' Chase
Ballyandy - Weatherbys Champion Bumper